Leonardo Boff on the Synod for the Amazon

Boff: "A unique possibility for change in the Roman Catholic Church"

“The Pope chose Amazonia as a theme because he knows its importance for the Earth's balance and for the Earth-Humanity common destiny.”

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Leonardo Boff en Belem do Para, 2009
Foto: Sergio Ferrari
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From October 6 to 27, the Vatican will gather some 300 personalities – including 110 Latin American bishops from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela – to participate in the Synod "Amazonia, New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology". It is a transcendental call for the future of the Church, as indicated by the Brazilian thinker and social activist Leonardo Boff, one of the founding fathers of Liberation Theology. As he analyzes in this exclusive interview, Boff perceives the possibility, as a result of this conclave, of strengthening the Church's position in the face of the increasingly present issue of ecology. And, at the same time, the opportunity to incorporate important changes within the institution itself.


Q: Between October 6 and 26, the Synod for the Amazon will be held in Rome. What is your vision of the importance of this call from the Vatican?


Leonardo Boff: I see it as a unique opportunity for Pope Francis to make changes. Changes that could never happen from the center of religious power in the Vatican. In the first place, he underlines the synodic character of the meeting, that is to say, the decisions depend on all the participants, including native peoples. The text is clear: it is not a question of converting cultures, but of evangelizing within cultures, so that a new Church can be born with an indigenous face, with its ancestral wisdom, with its rites and habits. In this context, it promotes discussion on the opportunity to consecrate, for lay ministry, married people and indigenous people who will go to live as a part of these distant communities. And, also, on an official ministry for women. There are bishops who propose not to refer to "viri probati" (ed. Men of proven character) but to "personae probatae" (ed. persons of proven character), with the possibility of extending the priesthood to women.


Q: There is no lack of sectors in the conservative hierarchical church which have already started, before the Synod begins, to raise their voices against certain contents proposed for debate....


LB: Those in Europe and the United States who, as a result of the statements in the basic text, accuse the Pope of heresy, are the same ones who live as hostages of the European paradigm, forgetting that today's Christianity was born from the incorporation of Greek, Roman and Germanic culture. Why not allow our peoples to do the same today? Behind the accusations against the Pope lies a question of power. Those who accuse him do not accept the emergence of another type of Church, more numerous churches with greater vitality, with their theologies and liturgies. Finally, it is important to recall that Catholics in the Americas are in the majority with 62%, while Europeans are only 25% of all Catholics in the world.


Here there is a true ecclesiogenesis (ed.: he refers to his book Ecclesiogenesis, the base communities reinvent the church), the birth of a true Church, a catholic one with another face. There are a few cardinals – like the two Germans and the American who made public pronouncements – who do not accept such a vision, such a birth. They want to maintain the hegemony of the Roman Catholic type of Church that is now agonizing and with little radiation in the world.


Pope Francis represents this new type of Church with another vision of the exercise of simple sacred evangelical power, not emphasizing doctrines and dogmas but the living encounter with Jesus. Assuming his example because, he said, he came to teach us to live unconditional love, solidarity, compassion, total openness to God as a father (daddy).


Q: A vision of proximity, of a common path, which is further reinforced by the fact that this Synod prioritizes the Amazon, a region that is today very sensitive to the entire planetary ecological balance and is extremely threatened....


LB: Yes...The Pope chose Amazonia as a theme because he knows its importance for the Earth's balance and for the Earth-Humanity common destiny. It has a decisive role for the future of life. That is why he wanted the Synod to be held in Rome, so that all humanity could accompany the discussions and become aware of the serious crisis that the Earth system and the life-system are going through.


Q: Will you participate in this Synod?


LB: I was not invited. I am a controversial figure for many bishops, despite all the support I gave to Pope Francis and the support I personally received from him. But I collaborate with texts, some sent directly to the Pope and others to the Amerindian group (an interconnection of many groups of the Latin American Church) that will be present in Rome.


Q: Is the Synod an intelligent and timely step by the Roman Catholic Church in the face of the gravity of the environmental situation or, above all, a way to make up for lost time in the ecological defense of the Earth?


LB: The Catholic Church finally woke up to open itself to the integral ecological problem, which the World Council of Churches had already assumed many years ago with the motto: Justice, Peace and Preservation of Creation. The encyclical Laudato Si of 2015 on the care of the Common House represents this turning point of the Catholic Church. It is not a text for Christians, but for all of humanity. Nor is it reduced to a green ecology, but rather an integral one, covering the environmental, social, political, cultural, daily and spiritual realms. With this text the Pope takes leadership of the world discussion on ecology. Until now, the Churches were more of a problem than a solution for the situation of the Earth. Now they offer, from their spiritual richness, a contribution of great quality.

(Translation ALAI)


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